Deadheading the Hard Drive


Tending to the digital garden here, replacing a small-oldish laptop hard drive (90 GB) for a larger one (320 GB). Going through this ritual made me think about what gets old and how things begin to fail, or need to be retired, or stored for the winter, or, like the roses in our backyard, deadheaded.. In this case, I’ll replace the old original drive for a bigger one, and then keep the old one for the day that may never come when the current drive fails and I need to get something back. That’s going a bit far, but I can’t help but think about things that are a confluence of multiple redundancies simply failing — like the world economy.

Doing the swap went easier than I thought it would, but required just a bit of focus rather than a situation where distraction might come and interrupt things. There are multiple tiny screws — some finishing some just meant to hold things inside to other things inside. The one annoyance was that the case does not completely close the way it originally did, but it’s easy to ignore unless you’re one of those weird particular people who insist on factory freshness and obsess over “unboxing” experiences.

(Those books were on the kitchen table nearby and were there to balance and hold open the various parts. Without the drive and other stuff, the laptop wants to topple over itself backwards.)



The machine got to the point where I was constantly removing files to make room for other things and that just seemed silly in the era of 500 GB laptop drives and so forth. Plus, drives eventually fail I believe, so starting from scratch feels like I have extended my mean time between severe annoyances.

The procedure requires only one or two tricky bits, like removing the Wifi card, but this was easy enough. You’ll void the warranty, of course. But, I dunno. If your close to out of warranty anyway, which you probably are if you’re pondering replacing a hard drive, the extra head room is worth the hassles.



So long as things are going okay with the scary procedure, it was interesting to see what’s going on inside, especially the traces of multiple participants in creating the device. There’s Foxconn, of course, which I’m convinced makes just about everything there’s is to make that gets plugged in and dubbed “high tech.” Boy, I’d love to be able to spend a week there, just to see how an operation like that functions. I’m told that there are multiple borders between areas where work is done for different companies that consider themselves competitors and that it’s a veritable city of making things. (Probably mostly neat looking stuff that ultimately ends up being thrown away after a year, which is sad to think about when you consider how much energy and attention and thought gets put into these things by hundreds of people who are ultimately making lovely, seductive, plastic-y garbage.)


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Practice Observed: Secure Improvisations


Improvisation enacted to overcome a secured door that is probably the most often used in the studio, sitting near to the kitchen and coffee machines (and the sadly defunct espresso machine..) A stapler used to keep a door open helps one poor sould evades the secure RFID lock. Likely, their secure card was left on their desk or some such and the stapler provides them a momentary work-around to returning to their desk, retrieving the card and then getting back to the necessary business of fueling up on the morning caffeine.

Why do I blog this? Observing small but actions, especially around improvisation. I am curious about the way objects become practice-based activations and serve as beacons and indications of evolving materials and materialized social practices. All this and the entanglements within the many layers (morning rituals, security, barriers, identification, access, RFID, office supplies, etc.) and the entanglements amongst humans and non-human hybrids.

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GPS 9000


Anticipating the less-than-lovely side of ubiquitous computing scenarios, this photo is the end point of a circuitous GPS navigation FAIL on the way to relatives for Thanksgiving dinner last week. Looks like we’re driving into the river there. After what we went through, it wouldn’t surprise me if the GPS lady sent us right on into the ol’ Housatonic.

We made it unscathed but a bit dizzy from the miscues and miscommunications that were the result of an entangled navigation assemblage of people, roads, cellular telephony and satellite location practices. Along the route from northern New Jersey to somewhere in the woods of Connecticut we ended up departing from what seemed like the correct route along a major highway, but were told to exit by the lady in the GPS box, which I did with a little bit of raised eyebrows from the cohabitants of the car, including myself. I was skeptical initially, thinking that the GPS had been misprogrammed to another set of relatives whose home was somewhere around there. So, there was that, which implied a bit of skepticism tossed at the vehicle’s copilot, which caused some tension, on top of everything else. The GPS lady sent us down a couple of surface streets that constituted a short diversion around and then immediately back onto the same highway, in the same direction, toward the same goal.

This same “bug” (or whatever..) happened again further along, with the GPS lady taking us off route, onto some surface streets to make a long U-turn and then (conveniently and fortuitously) into the parking lot of a Dunkin’ Donuts, which allowed for a bathroom break. GPS lady then told us to get back onto the same highway.

This is either real HAL 9000 style Ubicomp, a test by “the man” to see how much people will blindly listen to their GPS ladies and do ridiculous things, or a case-in-point as to how sucky these things are to begin with. By this point, we were fairly skeptical about the ability of the GPS to navigate, and the conversations turned to things like — maybe the maps need to be updated and questions about Amazon’s return policy. Things like that. Meanwhile, alternative mechanisms were deployed to further entangle the navigation process — iPhones were fingered, alternative routes suggested, questions were raised about the fitness of one biway over another roughly parallel highway, calls were made to discuss alternatives and readjust anticipated arrival times, conversations on phone calls were taken as Gospel directions when they were really questions to the person on the other end (who couldn’t be heard except by the caller — as in “Take a left at the bridge.”, which really was “Take a left at the bridge?” and so a left was taken at the bridge, etc.) Confusion ensued (big time) as navigation became a group activity, which seems entirely a bad idea under even the most pleasant of circumstances. In summary — the same old sort of people-practices that have always gone into navigation and mobility practices, despite the GPS lady and her fancy tricks.

Why do I blog this?Another in a series of observations about the failure of technical instruments like GPS’s were meant to ameliorate, with a bit of cynacism towards the Ubicomp pink pony dream. Despite the dream and vision of fancy-futures, the entanglement of humans and non-humans into a knotted cooperative does not look like the advertising literature and product descriptions.
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